10.08.2012  |  Lager & distribution

How Multishuttle is revolutionising order fulfilment

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In just a couple of years, Dematic’s Multishuttle® has revolutionised the market for automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) worldwide.

Dematic’s innovative approach to automating the handling of small units loads like totes has made a whole new range of integrated logistics solutions possible, with Multishuttle systems now driving high-rate order fulfilment and assembly operations in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.

Multishuttle: A step change in ASRS
Unlike conventional ASRS, which typically use cranes to access stock, Dematic’s Multishuttle uses a fleet of self-propelled carts to retrieve and put goods away in an ultra space-efficient storage system, at very high speeds. Lifts at the end of each aisle transfer goods in and out of the system via integrated conveyors.
Given that each Multishuttle is capable of performing at rates significantly faster than cranes, imagine the phenomenal productivity and throughput rates that can be achieved when tens or hundreds of Multishuttles are integrated within a single system.
Another significant advantage Multishuttle® has over conventional ASRS is its ability to sequence workflow and do parallel processing, by handling multiple loads across multiple levels at the same time.
Driving order fulfilment into the 21st Century
Just as more powerful software drives the need for faster computers and vice versa, so too does Multishuttle technology drive the possibility of faster sequencing and integration of stock and orders. Multishuttle’s very high throughput rates suddenly made it possible for Dematic to develop
a series of clever applications that have the capability to bring customers to a new level of efficiency; arguably the ultimate in split case picking and order assembly.
By deploying Multishuttle as a buffer and sequencing platform between bulk storage and order picking stations, a new goods-to-person (GTP) picking methodology evolved that would change the face of picking forever, and provide an efficient platform for dealing with a constantly
changing distribution challenge.
Factors influencing the supply chain today
A diverse mix of emerging societal trends, including the growth of online shopping, have had a significant impact on retail shopping habits, with dot.com home shopping now accounting for 5% of all retail in Australia, and up to 40% in markets such as Korea. Add other factors like the general shortage andhigh cost of labour in many economies and increasingly restrictive workplace safety legislation, together with the demand for smaller, more frequent deliveries in the supply chain, and, suddenly, manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers all around the world have had to rapidly reassess their supply chains, and adopt new, more flexible distribution strategies to cost-efficiently process larger numbers of orders for smaller quantities. With its ability to deliver precisely that, Multishuttle was a technology that had come of age at precisely the time it was needed, addressing all of the issues generated by the societal drivers impacting the supply chain.                                                        The need for faster more ergonomic picking
The success of the Multishuttle® buffer concept had an impressive side effect by creating a new opportunity in handling and picking. The Multishuttle system had the capacity to move stock and order totes so fast, that new picking stations became necessary to allow pickers to keep up with the flow of goods.
To take full advantage of Multishuttle’s very high throughput, Dematic developed a new concept of high-speed picking station, enabling operators to achieve previously unheard of productivity rates
of up to 1500 picks or 1000 order lines per hour.
Dematic RapidPick® System configurations include one-to-one workstations where a single order tote and stock tote are presented to the operator. One-to-multiple stations can also be
used depending on requirements. In these cases a single stock tote is used to fulfil multiple orders at the same time. Configurations may include any arrangement from 1:1 up to 1:24 or more, depending on order volumes, order profile and the type of products being handled.
As picking stations began to facilitate faster picking, operator ergonomics became an important issue. With a design objective of working smarter, not harder, the RapidPick workstations include height-adjustable platforms and screens to optimise comfort, minimise fatigue and ensure sustained productivity. The operator picks only in the “golden zone”, and does not need to move hands above shoulder height or extend arms beyond a comfortable reach. Stock and shippers are automatically delivered to and removed from the workstation, eliminating the need for operators to lift or push cartons and totes.
Facilitating high rate, mixed case palletising
The Multishuttle storage buffer concept can also be applied to sequencing mixed cases for manual or automated palletising. Manual mixed case order assembly, in particular, can be carried out safely and with much greater efficiency, accuracy and productivity when goods are presented for palletising in the correct sequence. Dematic ErgoPall Palletising Stations enable operators to build mixed SKU pallets by simply sliding sequenced cases into position on a pallet.
As each layer is completed the pallet automatically lowers enabling assembly of the next layer to begin, significantly reducing the physical effort required and improving the safety, speed and quality of manual palletising.
Faster picking led to more efficient sequencing
The next challenge for Dematic was finding a way to keep the stock and orders flowing to pickers fast enough to optimise the high throughput rates achievable with the new pick station designs.
This led to the development of sophisticated sequencing software. Complex sequencing algorithms ensure stock and orders flow to the picking stations in the correct sequence, when
required. And, with a tote exchange time of less than one second, picking station operators don’t have to wait for the next item to be picked.                                                                                                             Design, software and integration the key
There is no doubt that Multishuttle technology has driven a paradigm shift in materials handling and order fulfilment thinking. It is important to understand, however, that while Multishuttles are an important component; ultimately they are only a transport mechanism in what is a very complex and intelligent integrated system.                                                                                                                               The real smarts lie in Multishuttle’s design, configuration and the powerful software and controls developed to prioritise, sequence and coordinate the thousands of actions required every second
the system is running, and to interface it seamlessly with upstream picking and downstream replenishment processes.
Modular, scalable, flexible
It’s not enough to simply have the fastest shuttles and smart picking stations. It is the integration of all the critical software, controls and subsystems handling all of the different activities such as replenishment,
buffering, sequencing and picking, that is the key to the successful implementation of extremely complex integrated systems. With the logistics landscape changing at a faster pace than ever before, it is essential that integrated distribution solutions be modular, scalable
and flexible so they can be replicated quickly, and scaled to suit the necessary volumes as business needs change.
Multishuttle’s modular design and inherent flexibility means it can be designed to fit in practically any shape or area of building, even unused roofspace. Simply adding additional Multishuttles to
a system can also significantly increase throughput capacity.
One certainty is this: as each new customer comes to Dematic with their own unique distribution
requirements, Multishuttle and its associated enabling technologies will continue to evolve and create powerful new solutions for optimising distribution for many years to come.


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